Cameron Crockett is wary of Nictock's propensity to self-harm undermining the gelding's return to racing at Rosehill.
The Mudgee trainer has been baffled by the four-year-old's recent tendency to kick himself during track work and trials, and so far the Randwick Equine Centre and Crockett''s vet have been unable to offer an explanation.
Nictock has seven wins and a placing from nine starts, a record that suggests Saturday's Benchmark 85 Handicap (1100m) should be well within his capabilities, but Crockett is approaching the race with some trepidation.
He had hoped Nictock would in the Listed Ortensia Stakes during the Scone carnival but a barrier incident, illness and, more importantly, his action thwarted those plans.
Crockett became concerned after a lacklustre, yet winning, trial at Mudgee in late March.
"He's won every trial he's had for me but normally he's pulling away from those kinds of horses by four or five lengths on the bit, travelling," he said.
Crockett then noticed Nictock was clipping his off side hock when he galloped, causing abrasions and bleeding.
"He started hitting himself really significantly in his last trial. We did a lot of investigations but couldn't find any reason for it," Crockett said.
"We're hoping it's just because his body is changing shape."
Nictock was sent to the Randwick Equine Centre, where the findings were inconclusive.
"We've got theories but no definite answer. The only thing that's changed with the horse is he's hitting himself, but has his action changed because something else is not right?"
Crockett said Nictock, who last raced in October, had worked well since his hock was heavily strapped at the point of impact.
"The tape has improved his gallops but if there's something else going on the tape will only help him so much. It'll only be a band aid," he said.
"At his best he would run a huge race. He's been good this week but he has to stretch himself further in a race.
"We've got to the point with his fitness that there's only one thing to do, strap the hock and go to the races."
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